By Dr. Fozia Kamran Cheema
I gathered my hope again. The vile witch inside me whispered in my ears, “it’s not easy to regret your own decisions, let’s see how those choices had affected his family “
Samina Amjad was on the line now. There is something strange about the voices of the parents of Arfa, especially when they talk together, as a team. Col Amjad’s voice is heavy and magnetic while Samina has a lenient and pleasant accent. When he speaks with a thunderstorm in his sentences, she adds calmness of sea in the conversation. He holds the hands of the audience and walks them through the micro details, while she gives a quick hug, cuts the throat, and is conclusive. Father narrates the story; mother presents the one-liner. Even their voices complement and complete each other.
Yes, Samina Amjad was on the line now. I was now anxious and terrified of asking, but I asked anyway, “how was it when Col sahib told you that he would be leaving the army?”.
She answered politely—-he told me after he left.
My heart pondered with joy, now will come some regret, now she will complain about what he did without even asking her.
I tried to ask in a calm tone, even though my heart was finally brooding with delight.
“What was your reaction?”. Nothing, she continued, mujhay pata tha khana to provide karain gay (I knew he will keep arranging bread if not butter).
Khana to provide karain gay??? (Food on the table???) That’s it. My expectation of having the pleasure of what I needed, disappeared immediately.
With her sentence, I knew, I had lost the battle. She summarized the whole conversation of him in this one phrase. This sentence had all in it, it had flawless faith, it had gigantic love. It had tawakul and tashakar for the present, for whatever they had, for the seen. It had acceptance for the upcoming, for the hidden, for the unseen. It exhibited partnership, it displayed teamwork. It proved respect for each other, it demonstrated standing together through thick and thin.
It was the definition of, “till death do us apart”
And I understood why Allah subhan a tala chose their home to send Arfa. No doubt Arfa was an exceptional human being, but that talent could be useless if was not received in hands of Col Amjad and Mrs. Amjad. That gift would have been wasted, if not fostered and nurtured with that level of persistence, Patience, perseverance, self-sacrifice, and above all, generosity, dignity, and care. Those kinds of life priorities were required and obligatory in the journey of becoming Arfa Karim.
I was silent when Samina handed over the phone to Col Amjad again.
I was hanging in the air; my seatbelt was torn into thousand pieces.
In my frantic efforts of finding a parachute to save myself, I realized that individuals on the other side of the telephone were not competitors. They were mentors, they were teachers, they were guiders, counselors, coaches, and above all they were parents. They were subscribing the guidance, sharing the experiences, offering a hand, showing the light, and delicately forwarding the legacy.
Yeah jang kaisay jeeti jate, wo larnay ko tiyar he nahen thay (It was impossible to win this battle, they were not willing to fight)
There was no Deja Vu to experience. Zero ….no embarrassment of broken promises, no shame of not being there for loved ones, no guilt of not doing enough, no blame on others, no seek of worldly gains, no ego, no games, no self, no claims, nothing …No me, no you … only a tasbih of Allah Hoo.
Sir kabhe to dukh howa ho ga, kabhe to kask pohanche ho ge, kisi laghzish ke , kisi faislay ke, kisi ghalti ke , kisi rawaiy ke …(Sir any regrets regarding any decisions in your life, any scars knifed by others) . This time I asked as a child after swallowing my tears.
He paused for a second as he was trying to leap some obstacle, then continued – “once in Rawalpindi, I did not have money to buy Arfa a new laptop and only a few days back I had rejected a contract from a big company in Dubai because it seemed like they wanted to commercialize and own Arfa. No regrets —–even though there were times when I felt helpless and not good enough as a father, as resources often were short and I did not want to compromise Arfa’s growth. But Allah always made a way to solve the problems, hurdles never lasted more than a day or two”
Gates of the world of Jamais Vu opened up for me gradually … serene, restful, calm world …grass was olive green, the sky was Icey blue, trees were taller, water was crystal clear with foothills around …birds were singing the songs unheard…Tranquility all over. The residents of this world were contented and generous, willing to share, prepared to comfort, humbly applying marham (Ointment) on the unhealed wounds.
As I was new to this world, and still had insignificant concerns shackled to my soul, I continued with interrogation. I was not fighting though. I was absorbing – the oomph, the ambiance.
I may one day become the pain scientist with hundrends of articles published around the globe, but for my pillow, I will be the Fozia who did not give an appointment to her father. Choices of yesterdays will continuously be hunting me and will always be the regrets of todays and tomorrow’s.
I threw another bait, “Sir, Arfa used to drink coffee with General Musharraf, would not it be better if she had asked him to provide her a driver and a counselor, so you could have continued serving the army?”
I saw him smiling while replying – “Khudi (self-awareness) cannot be taught with words. One has to practice khudi and live a life of khudi, to illuminate it to the children” …He paused, and my heart continued, khudi is either present or absent, it is either there or not, and it is absolute and not relative. It is a matter of to be or not to be.
He was the author of his own book, for him it was important what he and his daughter did and not what they did not.
Kia hay to nain mata e gharoor ka soda
Faraib e sod oo ziyan … La ilaha il Allah
Yeah, mal o dolat e dunya, yeah Rishta o paiwand
Butan e wahm o guman, La ilaha il Allah …. (A bargain you have struck for goods of life, a step that smacks conceit…. All save the call “No good but he”, is merely fraught with fraud and deceit)
Arfa’s parents were not dissectors of victories or even the fiascos, neither the choices they had to make nor the plans they selected to follow. They were submitters to life, to Allah subhan a tala, to His decisions.
They have defined the success for themselves, for their children, and for their generations to come and they did not let any worldly gain jeopardize that parameter.
I did not goad to ask the last question, the concluding one, the crucial one. I lacked courage.
I was not ready to hear the ultimate answer.
I hesitated to ask …If they could have known the future and had seen the unseen, would they have chosen contrarily? Will they be erasing khudi if granted a chance from scratch again?
All their previous replies crushed me as I was not expecting them. I was certain though—this last answer would be the one I was expecting.
Yeah, naghma fasl e gul o lala ka nahen paband
Bahar ho kah khazan, La ilaha il Allah … (These melodious songs are not confined to the time when rose and tulip bloom…. Whatever the seasons of year be “No good but He” must ring till doom)
Un kah faislay zaman o makan aur halat kah paband nahe they (Their decisions were not based on the situations, environments, and people around them)
I may one day become the pain scientist with hundreds of articles published around the globe, but for my pillow, I will be the Fozia who did not give an appointment to her father. Choices of yesterdays will continuously be hunting me and will always be the regrets of todays and tomorrow’s.
I asked him what his heart longed for now.…. Khawahish kia hay ap ked dil ke?
“Meri beti zinda rahay” … I wish my daughter keeps on living in the hearts of many, for all times to come. I hope her to be the source of motivation for the daughters of Pakistan. I wish a Pakistan filled with daughters like Arfa Karim, beaming, singing, chanting, and tapping the summits without fear, without any chains strapped to their feet or any strings tied to their heart. I wish her legacy and the legacy of my father Ch Abdul Karim to continue “
Night was landed outside my window and inside the fences of my heart at the same moment and with the same pace. Time to leave the land of Jamais Vu was reached. My plane already collided, and weapons were wasted, a naked feet long journey was waiting ahead.
I wished I had told them before I left, that the legacy they had built silently and with nobility will persist, this legacy of strong characters is immune to dying.
This legacy will continue in the hearts and minds of millions. This inheritance is so robust and compelling that it will be carried on through all of them they had ever touched, came across, had said a word, exchanged a smile or gave a hug. Their legacy is believable.
We, all of us, will carry it on. We will pass the torch on …. We will pass the torch on.